University of Southern California

School of Architecture

Graduate Programs

The school offers interrelated graduate programs in architecture, landscape architecture, building science and historic preservation as well as two dual degree programs with the USC Price School of Public Policy.

Admission to Graduate Programs

Credentials for admission must include a complete record of all previous college or university work. The applicant must request the registrar of each college or university attended to forward official transcripts of record directly to the Office of Admission.

Following are the basic requirements for admission to the graduate programs: (1) the appropriate degree from an accredited college or university; (2) satisfactory scores on the verbal, analytical and quantitative portions of the aptitude test of the Graduate Record Examinations; (3) intellectual promise and clear study intentions that indicate an ability to do acceptable graduate work; (4) a portfolio of design work*; (5) strong personal qualifications.

All students must speak and write English. Foreign students must demonstrate such ability by taking the TOEFL or IELTS test before leaving their home countries, and, if necessary, by further tests upon arrival on campus.

International students may be required to enroll in American Language Institute (ALI) English courses, based on scores on the English Placement Tests. The cost of these additional courses is the responsibility of the student. In addition, international students should be aware that they may have to defer enrollment in some major courses because of the ALI courses, extending the number of semesters required to complete the program and increasing the overall tuition expense. International students are urged to read with care all information sent to them about English requirements and to take as many English language courses as possible prior to coming to the United States.

*The Master of Building Science and Master of Heritage Conservation programs accept computer programs, papers and other work as portfolio work.

Correspondence with the dean or individual faculty members does not constitute admission to the Graduate School or to the School of Architecture. Only a letter from the Director of Admissions grants official admission.

Graduate Program Policies

Graduate students are expected to complete between 12 and 16 units per semester, spring and fall, depending on the program in which they are enrolled.

A minimum grade of C (2.0) is required in a course to receive graduate credit. A grade point average of at least B (3.0) on all units attempted at USC toward a graduate degree is required for graduation. A total grade point average of at least a B (3.0) in all courses applied toward completion of a certificate is required prior to being awarded a particular certificate. Course work taken on a pass/no pass basis cannot be applied toward a graduate degree or a certificate. If a student does not meet these minimum grades the faculty member should meet with the student to provide timely advisory reviews.

Failure to complete program course work on schedule will result in the loss of financial awards from the School of Architecture and/or may result in suspension from the program upon recommendation from the program director and approval by the Dean of the School of Architecture and the Associate Vice Provost for Graduate Programs. Additional semesters may be taken to complete the thesis or directed design research when appropriate.

All appeals will be reviewed initially by the director(s) of the appropriate graduate program and then by a committee consisting of all graduate program directors (with the exception that design courses will be reviewed by the design review committee). Their recommendation(s) will be forwarded to the dean for consideration and action, and then forwarded to the Associate Vice Provost for Graduate Programs. All communications must be in writing.

Thesis Committees

In the School of Architecture’s master’s programs, thesis committees must include a minimum of three members. The chair will be a full-time faculty member in the student’s discipline in architecture. The second member must be a full- or part-time USC faculty member, not necessarily from the School of Architecture. The third member may be either a USC faculty member or a practitioner with a special expertise in the field; she or he may be full-time or part-time, tenure track, non-tenure track, or a non-academic practitioner. Thesis committees are ultimately subject to approval by the school dean.

Certificate in Architecture

The focus of this program is on understanding the broad and complex role of architecture within the urban context. Studies focus on cities throughout the world where conditions of increasing density, environmental challenges and cultural complexity require design initiatives that support amenity, sustainability and cultural meaning. The certificate is open to graduate students not pursuing a Master of Architecture degree.

Course Requirements

Completion of the certificate program requires a minimum of 16 units.

For current USC graduate students not enrolled in a master’s degree program in the School of Architecture

Core Courses Units
ARCH 553* History of American Architecture and Urbanism 3
ARCH 561 Urbanism Themes and Case Studies 2
ARCH 562 Architecture Themes and Case Studies 2
ARCH 563 Contemporary Architectural Theory 2
Electives 7

Sample Electives (or as approved by program faculty adviser or director) units
ARCH 515L Seminar: Advanced Environmental Systems 4
ARCH 519 Sustainability in the Environment: Infrastructures, Urban Landscapes, and Buildings 3
ARCH 550 Heritage Conservation Policy and Planning 3
ARCH 564 Descriptive and Computational Architectural Geometry 2
ARCH 606 Advanced Architectural Theory 2
ARCH 607 Advanced Computation 2
ARCH 608 Urban Theory: Los Angeles Case Study 2
ARCH 609 Advanced Fabrication 2
ARCH 611 Advanced Building Systems Integration 4
ARCH 614 Contemporary Issues in Architecture: A Critical Dialectic 3

Students from outside the School of Architecture are required to take ARCH 543 Research Methods (1) as one of their 16 units.

*Students in the Master of Heritage Conservation Program should substitute core class ARCH 553 with another elective.

Certificate in Building Science

Building science at USC recognizes that exemplary architecture requires a creative response to natural forces, based on informed good judgment in the areas of architectural technology. The Certificate in Building Science is intended as a supplement for students enrolled in graduate course work in architecture, landscape architecture, historic preservation, urban planning or related disciplines.

Course Requirements

Completion of the certificate requires a minimum of 16 units. Students must take three core courses. Electives in building science may be taken to complete the program requirements.

required courses Units
Choose three of the following six courses:
ARCH 511L Building Systems: Materials and Construction, or
ARCH 611 Advanced Building Systems Integration 4
ARCH 513L Seminar: Advanced Structures, or
ARCH 613L Seminar: Structures Research 4
ARCH 515L Seminar: Advanced Environmental Systems, or
ARCH 615L Seminar: Environmental Systems Research 4
Elective(s) in Building Science 4

Sample Electives (or as approved by program faculty adviser or director) Units
ARCH 507 Theories of Computer Technology 3
ARCH 517 Current Topics in Building Science 1, max 6
ARCH 519 Sustainability in the Environment: Infrastructures, Urban Landscapes, and Buildings 3
ARCH 573 Seismic Design 2
ARCH 577L Lighting Design 4
One from the list of required courses that was not yet selected 4

Note: Required courses for this certificate cannot also be required courses in the student’s major in the School of Architecture.

Certificate in Heritage Conservation

This program is directed at professionals who wish to augment their academic credential for their involvement in heritage conservation projects and at graduate students who wish to complement a degree in architecture, landscape architecture, planning, public art administration, geography, anthropology or other related disciplines.

required courses (16 units)
ARCH 549 Fundamentals of Heritage Conservation 3
ARCH 550 Heritage Conservation Policy and Planning 3
ARCH 551 Conservation Methods and Materials 3
ARCH 553 History of American Architecture and Urbanism 3
Electives* 4

SAMPLE ELECTIVES (or as approved by program faculty adviser or director) units
ARCH 554 Heritage Conservation Practicum — Advanced Documentation 3
ARCH 556 Readings in Heritage Conservation Theory 2

Certificate in Landscape Architecture

This program is intended to introduce at the graduate level the basic subjects inherent to the field of landscape architecture: plant materials suitable to urban conditions; urban utility and transportation systems in relation to topography, natural drainage and pathways; plant and wildlife communities; as well as inquiries about landscape infrastructure and ecology, and the history of human settlement in the evolution of urban landscapes. Southern California and Los Angeles provide an exceptionally valuable natural and socio-cultural laboratory for landscape architecture studies.

Course Requirements

Completion of the certificate program requires a minimum of 16 units. Students must take four core courses and select 3 units of electives from the approved list approved by the director of the graduate landscape architecture program.

required Courses units
ARCH 531 The Natural Landscape 3
ARCH 537L Urban Plant Ecology: Environmental Perspectives 4
ARCH 544 Urban Landscape: Process and Place 3
ARCH 565 Global History of Landscape Architecture 3
Electives* 3

Sample Electives (or as approved by program faculty adviser or director) units
ARCH 530 Landscape Architecture Practice 3
ARCH 534 Landscape Construction: Topographic Design 3
ARCH 535 Landscape Construction: Performance Approaches 3
ARCH 536 Landscape Planning Process 3
ARCH 538L Urban Plant Ecology: Cultural Perspectives 4
ARCH 545 Urban Landscape: Contemporary History and Prospect 3
ARCH 566 Cross-Cultural Topics in Landscape Architecture History 3

*Students from outside the School of Architecture are required to take ARCH 543 Research Methods (1) as one of their 16 units.

Sustainable Cities Graduate Certificate

This multidisciplinary certificate program is open to USC students pursuing graduate degrees in disciplines including anthropology, architecture, biology, chemistry, communication, earth sciences, economics, education, engineering, geography, international relations, political science, public policy, sociology, urban planning and others. See the USC Price School of Public Policy for course requirements.

Graduate Certificate in Sustainable Design

The Sustainable Design Graduate Certificate is a multidisciplinary program open to USC students pursuing graduate degrees in many disciplines that may be interested in the sustainability of the built environment.

Sustainability is an imperative for our planet as climate change, population growth and dwindling oil supplies are all reminders that our resources are finite and we need a new paradigm to adjust to these global changes. The built environment represents the majority of our energy use and design can help reduce both the embodied and operational energy of our buildings and urban landscape.

This certificate provides students with the tools necessary to understand and quantify sources of energy use in buildings and landscapes and to use design of natural and man-made systems to reduce their energy use. This certificate will give students the background to help them make sustainable design choices through informed decision-making that considers the performance of the built environment related to the energy required to make it, the energy it absorbs or releases, the energy required to maintain it, and the energy required to replace it. Environmental, economic and socially responsible solutions will be explored through the course work.

Applicants for the Certificate in Sustainable Design who are currently enrolled in a program at USC and are in good standing with a 3.0 GPA only need to submit the appropriate paperwork for adding the certificate program, which may be obtained from the student services adviser.

Applicants for the Certificate in Sustainable Design who are not matriculated in a master’s-level program at USC must submit a formal application for admission to the certificate program, provide transcripts of all college work, a resume and one letter of recommendation.

Course Requirements

Completion of the certificate program requires a minimum of 16 units.

Core Courses Units
ARCH 515L Seminar: Advanced Environmental Systems, or
ARCH 615L Seminar: Environmental Systems Research 4
ARCH 519 Sustainability in the Environment: Infrastructures, Urban Landscapes, and Buildings 3
ARCH 579 Sustainable Building and Environment using LEED metrics 3
Electives* 6

Sample Electives ** (or as approved by the program faculty adviser or director) Units
ARCH 515L Seminar: Advanced Environmental Systems, or
ARCH 615L Seminar: Environmental Systems Research (whichever one not used above) 4
ARCH 517*** Current Topics in Building Science 1
ARCH 531 The Natural Landscape 3
ARCH 537L Urban Plant Ecology: Environmental Perspectives 3
ARCH 557 Sustainable Conservation of the Historic Built Environment 3
ARCH 511L Building Systems: Materials and Construction, or
ARCH 611 Advanced Building Systems Integration 4
ARCH 599*** Special Topics 1-4
ENE 505 Energy and the Environment 3
PPD 644 Shaping the Built Environment 4
PPDE 632 Sustainable Cities 4

* Students from outside the School of Architecture are required to take ARCH 543 Research Methods (1 unit) as one of their 16 units.

** Electives for the certificate may not include courses required by the student’s other degree programs.

*** When approved by the director of the Chase L. Leavitt Graduate Program of Building Science

For current USC students enrolled in the Master of Building Science program

Core Courses Units
ARCH 511L* Building Systems: Materials and Construction, or
ARCH 611* Advanced Building Systems Integration, or
ARCH 615L* Seminar: Environmental Systems Research 4
ARCH 519 Sustainability in the Environment: Infrastructures, Urban Landscapes, and Buildings 3
ARCH 579 Sustainable Building and Environment using LEED metrics 3
Electives 6

Sample Electives (or as approved by the program faculty adviser or director)
ARCH 511L** Building Systems: Materials and Construction, or
ARCH 611** Advanced Building Systems Integration, or
ARCH 615L** Seminar: Environmental Systems Research 4
ARCH 517*** Current Topics in Building Science 1
ARCH 531 The Natural Landscape 3
ARCH 537L Urban Plant Ecology: Environmental Perspectives 3
ARCH 557 Sustainable Conservation of the Historic Built Environment 3
ARCH 599*** Special Topics 1-4
ENE 505 Energy and the Environment 3
PPD 644 Shaping the Built Environment 4
PPDE 632 Sustainable Cities 4

*If not used as a required course for MBS degree

**If not used as a required course for MBS degree and not used as a core course above

*** When approved by the director of the Chase L. Leavitt Graduate Program of Building Science

Each academic unit, department or program will determine the number of units completed that may be applied to the student’s master or doctoral degree.